Home » China Travel Guide » Chinese Culture » Dragon Boat Festival

Dragon Boat Festival

Introduction to the Dragon Boat Festival

Introduction to the Dragon Boat Festival

The Dragon Boat Festival - also called Double Fifth Festival, falls on the fifth day of the fifth month of the lunar calendar. It is one of the most important Chinese festivals.

The Dragon Boat Festival has been celebrated for thousands of years to commemorate Qu Yuan, a great patriotic poet who lived in the state of Chu during the Warring States period (475 B.C. to 221B.C.). He drowned himself in the Miluo River in today's Hunan Province in 278 B.C. on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, hoping his death would encourage the king to revitalize the kingdom. The tradition arose that on the day of his death dragon boat races would be held and people should eat "zongzi" (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves).

Dragon Boat Races

Competing teams drive their colorful dragon boats forward to the rhythm of beating drums. These exciting races were inspired by people's attempts to rescue Qu Yuan from the Miluo River. This tradition has been handed down for centuries.

Zongzi

zongzi China

A very popular dish during the Dragon Boat Festival, Zongzi which mainly consist of glutinous rice with other ingredients such as meat, peanuts, egg yolk, or other fillings wrapped in bamboo leaves. The tradition of Zongzi is meant to remind us of the fishermen who scattered rice into the water of the Miluo River to appease the river dragons so they would not devour Qu Yuan.

Aicao (Wormwood)

aicao wormwood

Apart from the legend of Qu Yuan, the Dragon Boat Festival of the fifth lunar month is significant in many places. Many Chinese people consider this time of year to be an especially dangerous time when illness is common, thus extra efforts must be made to protect their family. Families hang "Aicao" (wormwood) on their doors for protection. The drinking of or rubbing with "realgar wine" is also thought to remove poisons from the body.

It is said that after Qu Yuan jumped into the Miluo River, people wanted to protect him from being eaten by the Flood Dragon. First they scattered zongzi and salty eggs into the river. Then an old man brought a bucket of realgar wine and poured it into the river to protect Qu Yuan. Soon afterwards the Flood Dragon floated to the surface and people killed it.

There is a famous Chinese legend that is closely connected to the Dragon Boat Festival, Aicao, and realgar wine. Once upon a time, two snake spirits lived on E-Mei Mountain, White Snake and Green Snake. They magically transformed themselves into beautiful women and went to the West Lake of Hang Zhou. There they met a man named Xu Xian. The White Snake quickly fell in love with Xu Xian and soon they were married. A Buddhist monk, named Fa Hai, warned Xu Xian that his wife was not a real human being and gave him some suggestions. On the day of the Dragon Boat Festival White Snake stayed at home in order to avoid the Aicao hung on the doors of people's houses. Meanwhile, according to Fa Hai's instruction, Xu Xian prepared some realgar wine. The White Snake drank a cup of the wine and was turned back into a huge white snake.